Black Russian Terrier

The Black Russian Terrier, often just called the “Blackie,” the “BRT,” or “Stalin’s Dog,” is quite the enigma. These powerful working dogs were the brainchild of Soviet-era Russia. Only today are they becoming popular throughout the world as companion dogs. Like many breeds from the working group, these powerful dogs can be a lot for the average family to handle. However, they can also be steady companions that are surprisingly gentle with children. Read on to learn more about the Black Russian Terrier.

Description of the Black Russian Terrier

This breed is a conglomeration of many other famous working dogs. During the years of the Soviet Union, the Red Star Kennel was tasked with creating the perfect military dog. Because of Russia’s separation from the rest of the world, breeding stock was limited.

Eventually, though, they were able to procure some of the best dogs from mainland Europe and beyond. The Black Russian Terrier has a dash of Airedale, a pinch of Rottweiler, and even some Newfoundland for good measure.

In the end, these dogs didn’t end up with many terrier traits, despite their name. It could be looks, but many people liken them more to the Giant Schnauzer than a Jack Russell! They are known for big bodies — powerfully muscled and covered in coarsely curled coats. As their name implies, these are always black.

Life Expectancy and Size

The Black Russian Terrier lives only into its early teens if well-bred and well cared for. This is not unusual for such large dogs. Their average lifespan is between 10 and 12 years.

The Russians definitely succeeded in creating an impressively powerful dog. These dogs can weigh up to 130 pounds! Females tend to weigh less, but are still usually 80 pounds or more. These dogs stand between 26 and 30 inches tall.

Protective Ability

Although this breed was bred for the military, they are not overly aggressive. They tend to have more trouble with dogs, although properly socialized Black Russian Terriers can get along with other canines just fine. Of course, they are still perfectly adequate protection. No intruder would likely challenge 130 pounds of pure muscle!


It is recommended to begin training sessions early with the Black Russian Terrier. It is much easier to manage them when they are small. No one wants an unruly teenager that is bigger than his owner.

Do not let this deter you, however. Intelligent training is all that is required to tame these big beasts. They respond quickly to positive reinforcement. The Blackie is more sensitive than he looks, and craves kindness. It’s important that he understands it’s fun and easy to do what you say.

A large part of training should be dedicated to socialization. Introduce Black Russian puppies to many new people and places. This will make them well-adjusted adults.

Energy Level

These dogs were meant to have a job. Consequently, they have tons of energy so that they can perform that job. If they are left with inadequate mental and physical stimulation, they will quickly become bored.

In fact, the Blackie is quite prone to destructive behavior. It’s pretty easy to cause problems when you’re so large. Providing enough outlets for their bodies and minds is key. Puzzle toys can be a good distraction while the family is busy.

What Living with a Back Russian Terrier is Like

The Black Russian Terrier can be a steady, powerful companion dog. These workhorses are more than capable of protecting their families. They are also sweet, loyal, and brave, and can make great companions for older children.

These dogs take up a lot of room, there’s no way around that. Owners need to have plenty of space and time to dedicate. Blackies like people and will absolutely not exercise themselves – you’ve got to join them in the fun!

Unfortunately, this breed does have some serious health problems. Know this going in, and do not expect that they will live past 12 years.

Care of the Black Russian Terrier

These dogs were bred to be tough, not to be suburban lawn ornaments. They usually play household roles quite well, but need some specific care to stay healthy, happy, and sane.

Environmental Needs

The Black Russian Terrier was bred to patrol Siberia, perhaps one of the harshest environments in the world. Chances are, then, they can handle whatever weather you throw at them. In very hot environments, they may overheat, especially in direct sunlight. Provide shade and plenty of cool water, and keep them indoors during the day.

Exercise Needs

As a working dog, the Blackie still requires plenty of exercise. These dogs are great for athletic owners. The best way to ensure that they get the activity they need is taking them on outings. They’re perfect companions for runners, hikers, and bikers. This breed has more agility and endurance than many large breeds.

Sports are another good option. They will excel at physical and mental challenges like agility and even organized protection sports like Schutzhund or French Ring.

Do be careful to limit puppies’ exercise. During this time, their growing joints are extremely sensitive.

Shedding and Grooming

These dogs do require some maintenance, with daily brushing recommended. It is important to tend to their coats at least a couple times each week to make sure they avoid matts. Some owners trim or clip the face to avoid irritating the Blackie’s nose, eyes, and ears. Shedding is seasonal. During much of the year, the Black Russian Terrier will shed quite minimally.

Ideal Home Environment

This breed is a good option for athletes. They are much more agile than most large dogs, and can keep up with all but the most intense sports.

The ideal home environment will provide the Black Russian Terrier with enough social interaction. They do not like to be left alone for long periods of time and prefer to do activities with their humans. It is also important that owners dedicate adequate time to socialization.

Health Concerns

This breed definitely has some serious health problems. Many Blackies live healthy lives, but there is always the potential for problems. Do not expect these dogs to live past 12 years.

Urinary stones are quite common in this breed. Some also have serious eye problems, some of which can lead to blindness.

Joint problems are another issue for Black Russian Terriers. Make sure to keep them physically fit. They are prone to obesity, which can exacerbate the problem.

Finally, allergies can be a quality of life issue for some individuals.

Behavior Problems

Black Russian Terriers that are properly trained are usually quite well behaved. Make sure to begin training and socialization early to avoid bad habits.

Aggression, especially, can be hard to fix if it is allowed to manifest. Most properly socialized Blackies have no trouble with this, though. Find a good puppy kindergarten and focus on building calm, positive interactions with the world. As you move forward with your Blackie, avoid scary training tactics and contact a behavior consultant right away if you’re worried.